“As far as Kevin goes, just want to wish them a merry offseason and a happy Christmas,” Elliott told NBC Sports pit reporter Dave Burns after he advanced to the Round of 8 with an impressive drive to 12th after being wrecked by Harvick midway through the second-round cutoff race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.
Elliott has said his problems with racing against Harvick date back years. The most consequential happened last month at Bristol Motor Speedway — Elliott suffered a cut tire after contact with Harvick and then impeded the leader’s progress, leaving Harvick feeling robbed of a victory.
Was Harvick retaliating for Bristol by punting Elliott at the Roval?
“Sometimes real life teaches you good lessons,” Harvick cryptically told NBC Sports’ Parker Kligerman after being eliminated from the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs when he crashed with 10 laps remaining.
He later added, “You remember Bristol” when asked if the Elliott wreck was payback.
So were they even? Harvick smiled and stepped away without answering one of the five questions he took in two brief interviews with NBC and PRN outside the care center.
"Are you guys even?" – @PKligerman to Kevin Harvick on Chase Elliott.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 10, 2021
The timing of his crash – Harvick locked up the left-front tire on his No. 4 Ford and slammed into the Turn 1 barrier with Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet about 50 feet behind – precluded another chapter in the feud. Elliott and crew members had discussed wrecking Harvick on their team radio.
Elliott said “I’m not sure” when asked if he would have wrecked Harvick if he’d gotten to him before the crash.
But that was about all the defending Cup Series champion was willing to say after climbing from his battered Camaro and checking out the damage to his right rear before exchanging fist bumps with crew chief Alan Gustafson and other team members.
“I’m excited to be moving on, and that’s all that matters to me,” Elliott said with a smile after the third question about Harvick. “You’re not getting anything else, so you might as well quit.”
The questions still came, though.
Was the feud over with Harvick?
“I’m headed to Texas next week, focusing on my job.”
Did Harvick experience karma?
“I’m headed to Texas next week to focus on my job.
So you’re done talking about it?
“I’m certainly not talking about it right here,” said Elliott, who then thanked reporters and ended the group interview.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) October 10, 2021
Rick Hendrick, whose team had two drivers advance in the playoffs with Elliott and race winner Kyle Larson while Hendrick Motorsports drivers William Byron and Alex Bowman were eliminated, said he wants NASCAR to intervene in the Harvick-Elliott feud because “they’re the only ones that can really stop it. I hope they do because the crew chiefs and everybody can do the best they can, but it’s up to the drivers themselves. I’ve been in this situation before. NASCAR can handle it.”
Hendrick was the team owner for Geoffrey Bodine during a 1980s rivalry with Dale Earnhardt. That feud featured enough intentional wrecks by Bodine and Earnhardt to trigger a famous meeting with NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. that inspired a “Days of Thunder” plotline.
“I hope it’s over,” Hendrick said Sunday. “We don’t want to race that way. We want to just race. That’s not our style. If a guy is better than you, he wins. Just do your job. If you get beat, you get beat. It never feels good to push somebody out of the way. I mean, a little rubbing or something, that’s OK. But just to wreck somebody, that’s not good.”
Hendrick said Elliott “willed to get that car up there” after the impact from the Turn 7 spin destroyed the rear of his car and required major repairs to the decklid and bumper cover.
Despite the damage, Elliott’s team managed to stay on the lead lap and then caught a major break when a caution flew for his bumper cover flying off his car on Lap 87.
“Our team did a really good job of putting our car back together,” Elliott said. “That was really the bottom line. They just took the allotted amount of time to fix it properly, not have any more tire rubs and not cut a tire down to end our day completely.
“Got the caution and was able to keep fighting so just really proud of that. We could have easily given up or not fixed it to the proper standard and have something break or have a tire rub, so everybody just did a really good job with that. Proud of that. It was a really fast car, and I thought we had a shot to win. Obviously that didn’t happen, but in the grand scheme, that was the most important thing, and our season is still alive. Super excited about that. Excited for three more weeks and another opportunity to win a championship.”
Elliott wasn’t the only driver at the Roval displeased with Harvick, who entered the race nine points behind the cut line for advancement.
“(Harvick) was about running over everybody,” Kyle Busch said. “He didn’t make every many friends out there today. That just kind of goes to show what you’ve got to do in these races. It doesn’t matter whose feelings you hurt and what’s going to come back on you next week. We saw it with me last year: (Harvick) dumped me at Martinsville. Can’t say that I’ve been guilty of that yet. There’s some dirty dudes out there.”
Dustin Long contributed to this story